Want to improve team productivity and efficiency without the burnout? Check out our six in-depth strategies to get started.
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Picture this: A factory in Illinois during the roaring ‘20s. Austrian psychologist and Harvard professor, Elton Mayo, conducts an experiment to understand what motivates workers and incentivizes them to be more productive. The answer? Social factors like positive relationships and clear communication between managers and workers.
Today, we know way more about increasing efficiency and motivating employees than Mayo. But one thing holds true: A strong collaborative culture can help leaders significantly improve team productivity.
It can be difficult to create a collaborative culture, though, if poor project management, information silos, and a lack of buy-in from team members get in the way. That’s why leaders and people managers need a toolbox of techniques to create a dynamic culture of teamwork to help your team be the best it can be.
With that in mind, in this post, you’ll learn six practical strategies to improve team performance and productivity.
Want to improve team productivity?
With Switchboard’s collaborative digital workspace, your people can get more done together in real-time or async.
*Elton Mayo: The Hawthorne Experiments Thinker. | The British Library (bl.uk)
How can you improve productivity on your team?
Helping your team be more productive is all about finding the right balance between efficiency and motivation. It involves creating a supportive environment, giving people the tools they need to succeed, getting everyone on the same page, and involving them in the decision-making process.
For a strong collaborative culture, you also need to encourage open communication and show you appreciate their hard work. Embrace technology and automation when you can, but remember that ultimately, a happy and engaged team is the real key to productivity.
Let’s take a look at these tips in more detail.
1. Invest in the right setup
The first thing your people need to do their best work is the right setup. Whether they work online or in person, they’ll need the tools, processes, and equipment to be productive. For example, when you have the right collaboration tool or project management platform, you can get more done than if you’re trying to use one that lacks the features you need.
Here’s how to get your team a great setup:
- Provide the right tools for smooth communication and teamwork. Productivity drops the minute you’re stuck in a meeting trying to get the screenshare functionality to work. But the best teams have great tools—from reliable hardware like laptops and desks to software like project management and communication tools. You can even use an online workspace like Switchboard, which can store all your information and apps in one place so everyone can work on them simultaneously, also known as a multiplayer experience.
- Let automation take care of repetitive tasks. For example, you could automate canned email responses to queries that eat up your team's precious time. Look to automation tools to reduce manual, repetitive tasks and free up time so your team can do high-value human tasks that require their unique skills and creativity.
According to Slack’s 2023 State of Work report, employees can save up to 3.6 hours every week by using automation. Seventy-seven percent also believe that automating routine tasks can improve their productivity.
- See how you can adopt AI in your daily workflows. According to Slack, only 27% of desk workers today say they use AI. However, 90% of the people who are using AI are more likely to report higher levels of productivity than those who haven’t adopted AI yet. While automation tools rely entirely on the rules you create, AI has adaptive learning capabilities, meaning that it can offer even better solutions every time.
Explore how you can use AI to make tasks like summarizing meetings, resolving customer tickets, and even analyzing customer feedback easier. If you’re using Switchboard, you can use it to summarize sticky notes made during meetings or left by people during work sessions. This saves a ton of time and helps keep everyone on track.
2. Don’t overlook professional development
Investing in your people’s growth positively contributes to employee productivity. This is because it helps them improve their current skills and learn new ones so they can tackle challenges more effectively. When you’re supportive of their development, they’re also more likely to be motivated, engaged, and happy with their roles.
Here are some ways to develop your people:
- Offer training through workshops, webinars, or online courses. This provides avenues for continuous learning and growth and helps your people keep on top of new industry trends. For example, you might run a seminar for your content creation team on how to use AI to generate repetitive content like FAQs.
- Conduct a skills gap analysis. This will let you identify disparities between your people’s current abilities, and what they need to be able to do to meet their goals. Once you know this, you can make more informed decisions about what training to organize. If you conduct a skills gap analysis and discover that your sales team isn’t closing deals because they lack empathy with the customer, you can run training on active listening techniques.
- Hold regular 1:1 meetings and regular check-ins with your team members. The aim of these is to discover individual development goals. Let’s say you manage the design team of a small marketing agency. One designer may want to get better at creating engaging social media graphics. Another may want to dive into animations to add some flair to your campaigns. By knowing their aspirations, you can nurture their growth, tailor training sessions, and even pair them up for knowledge sharing.
- Help your team identify their strengths and areas of growth. For example, you could host a StrengthsFinder workshop, which is designed to help individuals reflect on their abilities. Not only is this a good opportunity for team building, it can also help you assign tasks better. When your people focus on their strengths and specialisms, they can get more done in less time and nail the results.
Pro tip: Switchboard is a collaborative digital workspace that helps you get more done through persistent project rooms. Your room will save anything you put it in, so you can pick up where you left off next time.
When you use Switchboard for knowledge sharing, you can create a dedicated room for team members to share new things they’ve learned or skills they are proficient in.
3. Get your team invested in productivity
“Two heads are better than one” is a cliche for good reason. Teams are more effective than individuals and you don’t have to keep your efforts to improve productivity to yourself. When you get buy-in and motivate your teams to support goals around boosting productivity, you can find solutions that work for the majority.
Here are some ways to involve your team members:
- Start with team building to build camaraderie and trust. When your people build stronger relationships, they’re more likely to work together effectively, which helps improve productivity. Just remember, team building isn’t something that only happens in team building games. For it to be successful, you need to bake it into how your people operate on a daily basis.
Take every opportunity to encourage spontaneous interactions and build connected teams. Using a platform like Switchboard helps here as your meetings become interactive, rather than passively watching someone share their screen. For example, you can encourage people to use sticky notes to shout each other out during your weekly check-in.
- Ask them what’s working and what could be improved. Adam Grant, organizational psychologist at The Wharton School, recommends having “stay interviews” instead of exit interviews. The idea is that you proactively interview employees to find out why they took the role and what can be done to keep them there.
The goal of getting feedback isn’t to place blame but to find areas in your workflows or processes that aren’t fit for purpose. For example, during your team meeting, someone might point out that aspects of your lengthy client approval process are causing delays. By pinpointing these bottlenecks, you can brainstorm together and come up with smarter, more efficient ways to get things done.
- Create a culture that celebrates and rewards collaboration regularly. You can do this by regularly shouting out people for collaborative behaviors, recognizing team successes and milestones, and fostering a sense of camaraderie. For instance, at your monthly team meeting, give a big shout-out to individuals who went the extra mile to support their colleagues. You can also create a dedicated “wins” channel on Slack to give shoutouts for great results or teamwork.
- Lead by example and model productive behaviors for team members to follow. When your team sees you walking the walk, they'll be more inspired to step up their game. For example, don’t just tell your team to take ownership of their work: Show them that you can communicate effectively, prioritize tasks, and meet deadlines.
4. Make your expectations crystal clear
To build high-performing, productive teams, you need to make sure your people can see the why behind what you’re asking them to do. This way, they feel ownership instead of just doing what they’re asked because you said so. It will also help them feel more invested in achieving company goals if they can see how their work contributes.
Here are some ways to shed light on things:
- Start with setting clear, realistic goals and expectations. Ensure everyone on your team knows who is doing what by when. Eighty-five percent of people who have clarity on what they're working toward are more productive than those who don’t.
Asana’s 2023 Anatomy of Work report confirms this: 87% of employees at organizations with clear, connected goals report they’re better equipped to meet client demands; more than double those who lack this clarity.
- Document processes. Creating standard operating procedures (SOPs) means your people can always get things done, even when they’re in different time zones or if someone is out of the office. This also ensures consistent quality and standards across projects and tasks. Just remember to continuously evaluate team processes and workflow, perhaps every quarter, and make adjustments as needed.
- Use the right internal collaboration tools to eliminate siloed working and information. This way, you share files, communicate clearly and in context across teams and departments, assign tasks, and focus on getting more done together. For example, Switchboard is a collaborative digital workspace that lets you bring all your people, tools, and documents under one roof.
5. Set realistic deadlines
When you set attainable and realistic deadlines, you empower your team to perform at its best without feeling overwhelmed. People can focus on their tasks with confidence, knowing they have the necessary time and support to deliver quality results. Here’s how it works:
- Start by prioritizing tasks based on importance and urgency. Guide your team members to identify what needs to be done first, what they can delegate, and what can wait. By helping them manage their workloads, you can make sure they’re working on the most important tasks first.
When in doubt, draw up an Eisenhower matrix. This means ranking tasks based on urgency and importance. If a task is:
-Urgent and important, do it first.
-Important but not urgent, schedule it.
-Urgent but not important, delegate it.
-Neither urgent nor important, eliminate it.
- Measure team productivity using metrics and key performance indicators. This allows you to gain insights into your team's efficiency and identify areas for improvement. For example, if your team is nailing client deliverables and deadlines, this is more important than how long each task takes to complete.
Remember, setting realistic deadlines is all about finding that sweet spot between challenging and achievable. It's not about micromanaging; it's about finding ways to optimize workflows and support your team better.
6. Build a supportive work environment
According to Slack’s data, employee engagement and well-being play a large role in increasing productivity. In fact, 82% of individuals said that feeling happy and engaged at work is a key driver of their productivity.
To build a positive environment where team members feel valued and supported:
- Create trust, empathy, and psychological safety. You can do this by establishing these as core company values. Lead by example, promoting open communication, active listening, and compassion. Encourage calculated risk-taking and viewing mistakes as learning opportunities. When these values are deeply embedded, team members will feel empowered to contribute their best and find innovative solutions.
- Face conflict head-on and work with your team members to find constructive solutions. Let's say an employee has been consistently missing deadlines. Instead of letting it wait, have a one-on-one conversation to understand the reasons behind the delays. Maybe they're overwhelmed or facing challenges at home. Work together to find solutions, like adjusting their workload or providing additional support.
- Actively encourage time off and setting of boundaries to prevent burnout and increase motivation. Encourage your people to take regular breaks and use their vacation time. To make it easier for them to do that, model this behavior and take time off yourself. Additionally, remind them to unplug from notifications, etc. during their time off. A well-rested team is a more productive one.
- Reduce distractions and encourage team members to try “time blocking.” That’s when individuals schedule chunks of time dedicated to specific tasks. They can even block out “focus time” in their calendars where they avoid Slack, meetings, and answering emails. Consider setting your Slack status as “focus work” or “focus time” to let others know.
A holistic approach: The key to improving team productivity
In the 1920s, Harvard professor Elton Mayo conducted a series of experiments in US factories to find out what motivated workers. He considered the impact of physical incentives, like good lighting and frequent breaks, as well as social incentives, like having a supportive team leader and strong relationships with colleagues. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the social factors came out on top.
A century later, we know that a strong company culture and teamwork can significantly improve team productivity. You see, no one actually wants to be unproductive; they just may not know how to improve their output and performance, especially when working with others.
That’s why it’s important for you, as a team leader, to have a toolbox of strategies you can use to support your people to be the best they can be.
In this article, you read about six strategies to improve team productivity, including setting realistic deadlines, clear communication, supporting your people’s development, building a supportive environment, and finding out from them what works and what doesn’t.
Lastly, make sure to equip your team members with the tools they need to work together effectively and easily. Switchboard’s collaborative digital workspace and persistent rooms give your people a place to find each other, store and access information, and work together on browser-based apps, documents, and files. This lets you communicate in context, move the needle on projects and be more productive in real time or async.
Want to improve team productivity?
With Switchboard’s collaborative digital workspace, you and your people can get more done in real-time or async.
Frequently asked questions about improving team productivity
1. What are the benefits of boosting team productivity?
Some of the benefits of boosting team productivity include:
- Increased efficiency and time savings
- Improved work quality and outcomes
- Quicker task completion and project delivery
- Overall company success and growth
- Positive work culture and team morale
- Attract top talent to the company
2. What makes a team productive?
Some factors that help a team be more productive include:
- Clear and shared goals
- Effective communication and teamwork
- Trust and support among team members
- Delegating tasks based on individual strengths
- Openness to feedback and continuous improvement
- Positive team dynamics and culture
- Recognition and appreciation of achievements
- The right productivity and collaboration tools